Thank God for the Shins

Subscribers to the site have seen our Super Bowl rankings and projections and today we’ll also post our Game Center info on the game. I’m pretty burned out from the Super Bowl coverage already, so this is a good time to cover a non-football topic on my mind.

I’ve always been more of a commercial guy when it comes to music and I get most of my exposure to new music from either Sirius Channel 21 (alternative nation), Fuse TV, or a tiny bit of VH1. Luckily for me all of my favorite newer bands have released albums the last 2-3 years: The following bands in the following order: Green Day, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, The Strokes, and finally The Killers this past October. I saw 12 concerts featuring these six bands over the last 24 months or so. I have a tendency to burn myself out of new music from overplaying, and I was just about done with these six records for at least a half a year.

So I was at a major dead-end music-wise, and I was starting to listen to my old Floyd stuff. Dark Side of the Moon, in my opinion, is still the greatest rock music achievement of all time. I do gravitate to new music, however, since it’s so much more exciting to listen to, but I had nothing. I despise most of the rock stuff on VH1, like that Five for Fighting guy and that James Blunt guy. I wish they would go away forever. The Fray is okay, but I can’t help but think the singer is the kid from the 90s Nick cartoon “Doug” all grown up (an obscure reference, I know).

Then I heard the new track from The Shins, Phantom Limb. Wow, what a single. I had a couple of their songs downloaded, after seeing them featured in the film “Garden State.” Writer/Director/Star Zack Braff was obviously a huge fan of the Indie band and he even worked them into his movie, and the Shins scene with Natalie Portman was very good. Starving for new music, and knowing I liked everything I heard from the band, I downloaded their first two albums. Then I downloaded a couple EPs. Then I waited in great anticipation for the release of their new album (it came out last week). In other words, I quickly became obsessed with The Shins.

Singer/songwriter James Mercer is an incredibly talented guy, but what I like most about the band is the fact that they have seemingly borrowed their sound from five decades worth of great rock music, which is quite a feat. I like nostalgic music, but I also like hearing new stuff, and the Shins give me both. I hear a lot of Beach Boys, and some folksy California 60s stuff like The Byrds and the Mammas & the Papas. I also hear some serious British Invasion influence, particularly some very early Pink Floyd, like the Syd Barrett-influenced Floyd. I even hear some Monkees. From the 70s, I hear plenty of an earthy sound, perhaps a Grateful Dead sound. I also hear some more British stuff from the 70s, like Badfinger, and maybe a little Bowie. From the 80s and 90s, there’s also a heavy new wave/alternative sound, think the Cure and the Smiths first and foremost. The band didn’t form until this decade, so they obviously draw from a very modern sound as well. It might be impossible to come up with a new rock sound at this point, so I think we’re seeing some bands emerge who are putting their own spins on their influences (like the Killers), and I see nothing wrong with that.

Interesting songwriting, incredibly creative musically, great melodies, and catchy songs, The Shins are one of the best bands to come around in a while, and they’re going to satisfy my need for new music for quite some time. If my comparisons above intrigue you, definitely check them out.

In Garden State, Portman told Braff to listen to The Shins because they would change his life. And at the risk of sounding incredibly corny, they’ve changed mine.

Here are my current top-10 Shins songs:

1. Phantom Limb, Wincing the Night Away (2007)
2. Kissing the Lipless, Chutes too Narrow (2003)
3. Caring is Creepy, Oh, Inverted World (2001)
4. New Slang, Oh, Inverted World (2001)
5. So Says I, Chutes too Narrow (2003)
6. Girl Inform Me,  Oh, Inverted World (2001)
7. Turn a Square, Chutes too Narrow (2003)
8. Turn on me, Wincing the Night Away (2007)
9. Know your Onion, Oh, Inverted World (2001)
10. Saint Simon, Chutes too Narrow (2003)


Category: Music


One Response

  1. winit4mosi says:

    The January issue of GQ has a great article about the Shins entitled, “*This Band Might Not Change Your Life.” You might still be able to find it on newsstands (Deniro on the cover)if your local periodical purveyor is slow to update.

    Good stuff, John.

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